The Women's Health Sciences Division specializes in women Veterans and Active Duty personnel, including research related to cognitive behavioral treatments for PTSD, psychological and physical health, and interpersonal violence including military sexual trauma. The Division has also been a leader in the development and dissemination of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).
Now that there is strong evidence for the effectiveness of CPT, Division staff are working to examine more efficient treatment formats, modifications for specific populations, predictors of treatment response, and best methods of training and dissemination. In a project funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) via the STRONG STAR consortium, researchers are studying CPT delivered in group versus individual formats. Also underway is a study that will develop and test a modified version of CPT for Veterans with PTSD and TBI, as well as a NARSAD-funded study on neurobiological predictors of response to CPT for PTSD in women with and without co-morbid major depression. Finally, staff have funding from NIMH to study influences on the sustainability of evidence-based psychotherapies.
The Division has extended its focus beyond CPT and onto other intervention studies for PTSD, including a pilot study of yoga. There are also studies on comorbid PTSD and substance abuse. These include a VA-funded study on contingency management supported tobacco cessation in Veterans with and without PTSD. VA funding supported a randomized controlled trial on women's substance abuse treatment, a pilot study on PTSD/substance abuse treatment for OEF/OIF Veterans, a program-level assessment of a PTSD/SUD program, and a study on telephone screening of community Veterans.
In the area of pharmacotherapy, DoD funding was received for a proof-of-concept, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of ganaxolone in PTSD.
In addition, the Division secured DoD funding to develop and pilot test a new module of the Army's mental health training system (BATTLEMIND), which troops receive in the three to six months post-deployment. This study will test the addition of Acceptance and Mindfulness to the training, using a secondary prevention model to reduce rates of PTSD development.
The Division has completed a national survey of returning OEF/OIF Veterans to determine the effects of MST, combat, and the combination on women and men. Staff are currently analyzing the data.
Division staff are leading a longitudinal project tracking males and females who were Marines stationed at Parris Island. The study is examining their experiences in the military, especially any instances of MST, in order to determine whether these experiences are associated with PTSD, other clinical outcomes, suicide, or health-risk behaviors. As part of the MST Support Team, staff continue to collaborate with the Dissemination and Training Division to examine MST among men and women in VA.
Division staff are examining the role of sex hormones in the psychophysiological and biological correlates of PTSD in women, by assessing female subjects across their menstrual cycles. Additional projects that are underway include investigations on a twin model of eating disorders, comorbid conditions in women, and an NIMH-funded study of GABAergic neurotransmission in PTSD.
In the area of assessment, staff are working to update and validate the Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory to enhance its applicability for use with Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and with female Veterans.
Several studies address multiple areas of focus. One is an ongoing study on OEF/OIF Veterans' trauma exposure, resilience, healthcare utilization, and methods of preventing PTSD. The second is a VA-funded study on gender, stigma, and barriers to VA care.